March 27, 2012 – Probably the happiest day of Dodgers’ general manager Ned Colletti’s life. The Dodgers were sold to a new ownership group, officially ending the Frank McCourt era.
With McCourt gone, the days of shedding payroll were too. Colletti was (pretty much) handed a blank check and given the freedom to make all the moves necessary to turn the Dodgers into contenders.
The new ownership group made this change of culture apparent right away. They bought the Dodgers for $2 Billion when the team was worth approximately $1.2 billion. The new ownership overpaid by $800 million, but they flexed their financial muscles and made a statement in doing so.
So it began. They resigned fan favorite right fielder Andre Either, an upcoming free agent this winter, to a 5-year, $85 million deal.
Later that month, the Dodgers hit the international market. They signed 21-year-old Cuban outfielder Yasiel Puig to a 7-year, $42 million deal. Puig hadn’t played organized baseball in a year, but had a breakout season in the Cuban leagues in 2010-’11.
Now the Dodgers have traded for Marlins’ infielder Hanley Ramirez. From 2007-’10, he was a top-five hitter in the national league. Then his career took a downturn. He batted .243 in 2011, and is batting .246 this season. The Dodgers are hoping a change of scenery will help Ramirez right the ship.
This isn’t a Manny-Ramirez-type trade, at least in financial terms. Back then, Ramirez only had a few months left on his contract, with the Red Sox paying most of his remaining salary. That trade was a give-me. No risk involved. If it failed, Ramirez would be gone in two months time.
This time around it’s different. Hanley Ramirez has two years, after this one, and $38 million left on his contract. That’s a lot for a player batting sub-.250 for the past season and a half. The Dodgers needed to make this trade, but it’s risky one. Sure Ramirez is just 28-years-old, but he’s hasn’t just had a sluggish few months, he’s been bad for a season and a half.
The Dodgers are throwing around money like they sleep in it. Sound familiar? They are becoming the Yankees of the West Coast. Their old blueprint of winning with homegrown prospects from their farm system and making payroll-sensitive trades is buried deep in the trash. Now the Dodgers are following the Yankees’ blueprint, becoming a contender by spending big money through free agency and making trades barring financial considerations.
It’s worked for the Yankees so far. Since the Dodgers last won a World Series title, the Yankees have won five. So if the Dodgers’ ownership is willingly to spend money, why not?
The team may not even be done making moves yet. They want another starting pitcher and are targeting Chicago Cubs’ pitcher Ryan Dempster.
Get ready for the Dodgers to be involved in these trade rumors and big free agent sweepstakes constantly because this is a new era in Dodgers baseball – one where the price to build a championship team is priceless.